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At This Hour

Zelenskyy to U.S.: "We Need You Right Now"; Biden Soon to Pledge $800 Million More in Aid to Ukraine; Tsunami Warning for Eastern Japan after 7.3 Magnitude Quake. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 16, 2022 - 11:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in for Kate Bolduan.

We begin with breaking news. President Zelenskyy making a historic address to the U.S. Congress. During an approximately 10-minute speech this morning. Zelenskyy pleaded for additional assistance, including a no-fly zone over Ukraine and more defense weaponry and planes.

He finished his address in English, with a direct plea to President Biden.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I'm addressing President Biden. You are the leader of the nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of this.


GOLODRYGA: What Zelenskyy is trying to prevent is another scene like I'm about to show you. We want to warn you, this video is graphic.


GOLODRYGA: This is Chernihiv, a bread line struck by Russian forces. We are told 10 people were killed, although we're not able to verify the casualty figure.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GOLODRYGA: So given this and all of the destruction we've seen over the past three weeks, what will President Biden do next?

What will he give President Zelenskyy?

We'll find out when he speaks later this hour. We are covering every development here. And let's begin with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, on the ground in Odessa, an important port city, now facing a Russian advance.

Nick, what are you seeing on the ground there today?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, it's been tense, local officials saying two jets were downed and also sirens along with reports of shelling near parts of the coast here.

Essentially Ukraine officials say about Russia, it seems, testing Odessa's defenses. Key to whatever happens here -- and it's very hard to imagine a broad Russian plan to try to control Ukraine without a plan to control this, its third largest port city, all of that is informed to the east in Mykolaiv from where I am.

We were there for a number of days -- there's a lot of tension on one of the key roads near Kherson, the next major port along the Black Sea coast that is currently under Russian control. Russian forces certainly much in evidence and they say, Russian ministry, over control of the entire area.

That puts them further up the road than Ukraine would like toward Mykolaiv. Ukraine says it's been pushing back. We saw people fleeing, talking about intense destruction along that specific road.

That fight will play out in the days ahead. We've also heard of Russia going north, perhaps trying to cut Mykolaiv off from the West, maybe to encircle it. Whatever happens there, if it frees up Russian forces, could potentially lead to more deaths.

But civilians caught in Mykolaiv have had a horrifying experience in the last weeks, shelling hitting residential areas. This Sunday, nine dead when a rocket landed outside a store in central Mykolaiv.

One woman we spoke to, Svetlana (ph), her daughter died in unconnected events in the Czech Republic. She was there with her husband, buying sweets for the funeral, which was forthcoming, when the rocket landed and killed her husband. This is what she had to say to us when we met her in the hospital.


SVETLANA, BEREAVED WIFE AND MOTHER (from captions): The rockets landed and my husband just exploded and the blood came out from his head. And he is still lying there in the blood. And they took me here. In pieces.

(END VIDEO CLIP) So Svetlana (ph), unfortunately, after we spoke to her, left, ready to walk home alone, having lost her daughter and her husband. That's just one of the multiple stories we've heard in Mykolaiv, people simply finding their world destroyed by this indiscriminate bombardment. Russia is using that as a tactic. When it seems to fail to take control of these towns, it bombs them instead.

GOLODRYGA: Mykolaiv really the scene of some of the worst in humanity we've seen so far in this war.


GOLODRYGA: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much.

Reaction is pouring in to Capitol Hill after President Zelenskyy addressed Congress and received an enthusiastic response from lawmakers, who are facing mounting pressure to provide more assistance to Ukraine. CNN's Manu Raju is live on the Hill with the latest.

Manu, what are you hearing now from lawmakers in the wake of Zelenskyy's emotional appeal?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Virtual unanimity in support of the Ukrainian cause, in support of the Ukrainian people and widespread praise for Zelenskyy's address.

But not unanimity on the response that Washington should take in the aftermath of what Zelenskyy said. There is still some division and some bipartisan opposition to imposing a no-fly zone, as President Zelenskyy called for.

And also some concerns, namely from Democrats, about the calls to transfer aircraft over to Ukraine, despite what Zelenskyy said. Even some Democrats are also calling for the President of the United States, Joe Biden, to toughen his rhetoric against Vladimir Putin.


RAJU: Is there concern it might go too far?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does. Anytime you put American planes and pilots in the sky with Russian pilots and planes in the sky, you're really taking a chance that we reach a level that I don't think we're prepared to.

RAJU: The Ukrainian air force still has, in public disclosure, 54 planes?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), CHAIR, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Some of this is about who controls the airspace. I think the most effective tools right now are the antitank, antiaircraft missiles, the Stingers.

RAJU: Would you call President Putin a war criminal? SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): Absolutely. Call it what it is. He is

attacking hospitals, maternity wards, apartment buildings. When you direct fire on civilians, by definition, you're a war criminal.


RAJU: The White House has not gone so far as calling Putin a war criminal but that is the widespread view by members on both sides here. Also members will get a classified briefing later today in the Senate by the leadership, top chairmen, to hear the context of what Zelenskyy asked for Congress to do, as that guides the next phase of their approach.

There is still talk potentially they should give more to Ukraine after enacting nearly $14 billion. So the debate continues but undoubtedly both sides recognize more needs to be done.

GOLODRYGA: It was notable to hear from President Zelenskyy, asking for more economic pressure against Russia in the form of sanctions as well. Manu Raju, thank you as always.

President Biden is expected to speak in just a few minutes, responding to President Zelenskyy's address to Congress and announcing how much more aid the U.S. is expected to give Ukraine. CNN Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House.

Kaitlan, Zelenskyy directly reaching out to President Biden as leader of the free world.

What more can we expect to hear from Biden in response?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You can expect President Biden to directly reply to that request from President Zelenskyy. He did thank the United States for the support they've given so far. About $1 billion had been approved by President Biden for Ukraine in the last week. That's on its way.

It will be making its way to Ukraine in the next several days and weeks. But at times, President Zelenskyy also challenged President Biden to do more, especially with those direct words spoken in English at the end, calling on him to be the leader of the world, the leader who gets peace.

We know there are some specific requests that Zelenskyy has made that he is likely still to not get from the United States. He called for a no-fly zone, to help close the sky over Ukraine, talking about how Russia is using the skies as a source to go after Ukrainians and killing thousands of them.

But President Biden said that is not something he's prepared to do, because his fear is that it can get the United States into a third world war with Russia, because it would require them shooting down Russian planes, Russian pilots.

And he's made pretty clearly that is not something he is ready to do. But you saw Zelenskyy pivot to other questions and demands he has, talking about getting more fighter jets, getting these air defense systems.

We're also told armed drones are potentially on the table as well. We will hear from President Biden in just a few moments from now. We're told he will get specific about what this next $800 million will look like when it gets to Ukraine.

But of course, getting it there and quickly, given the urgency.

GOLODRYGA: And the president traveling to Brussels next week to meet with NATO officials in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.


GOLODRYGA: Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

President Zelenskyy pleaded with Congress to do more in the invasion.

What more might they be willing to do?




GOLODRYGA: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's appeal for more assistance was brought to Congress but he appealed very specifically to President Biden, make no mistake.

Lawmakers know that the White House will decide what Ukraine gets and what it does not get. Joining me now is chief political analyst Gloria Borger and military analyst, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Welcome to both of you.


GOLODRYGA: Gloria, what President Zelenskyy has done to appeal to world leaders, he really brought up some things, like World War II and 9/11.

What does that say to our elected leaders?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, he could teach a master class, whether in Great Britain where he talked about Churchill and Shakespeare, quoted them and here today, talking about 9/11, as you pointed out.

What he was doing was pushing on an open door, Bianna, because he knew that people in this audience were supporting him, even beyond what President Biden has done.

So he's not only speaking to the people there in Congress who were listening to him but he also knew he was speaking directly to President Biden at this point, saying to him, you know, you have to listen to me now and the Congress is behind me.

GOLODRYGA: It was interesting, I was waiting to see if he would actually refer to the president by his first name of Joe, because that's what he did yesterday when he spoke before the Canadian parliament and referred to Justin Trudeau as Justin.

Colonel, it did seem that while the no-fly zone was once again his first ask, he seemed to understand that likely wouldn't happen.

What do you make of the other asks, such as surface-to-air missiles and planes?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Bianna, I think it's very interesting. He's sort of playing in the field of this is what I want but I know what the reality is. I think that's very astute on his part.

The S-300 system he spoke about is actually an old Soviet system. So the air system that is still in use in many countries. At least one NATO country actively uses it and two others have it in their inventories.

So given that, there is a distinct possibility that this type of system, which is somewhat analogous to other versions of the Patriot missile system, that could very well be used to great effect in the war that the Ukrainians find themselves in.

GOLODRYGA: Specifically regarding planes, though, Gloria, I'm just curious, because President Biden has been defiant over the past few weeks that the U.S. cannot facilitate, not U.S. planes but MiG-20 planes, former Soviet planes, that would be flown by Ukrainian pilots.

Why is there such a hesitation to do that, given it wouldn't be U.S. pilots over the skies of Ukraine?

BORGER: Well, as the administration has said, they believe it would be escalatory to the Russians. I think the big issue here, let me just say, the administration, the people I talked to in the administration, understand the pressure coming from Congress, the pressure coming from the subcommittee -- and you know there was some disagreement within the administration.

And it's the Pentagon holding out on this right now. Whether that will change, we don't know.

The big issue is logistical, which is how do you get the planes where they need to be?

I think that's kind of the holdup here and I'm not qualified to talk about how you would do that. But I do believe in conversations that are being held between the administration and folks on the Hill. That is really the question that needs to be answered.

And I don't think they have an answer to it yet. You're going to see the president, just in a few minutes, start talking about, you know, giving $1 billion dollars in more aid, he's going to up the sanctions. But this remains a key question. And you know there is not going to be a no-fly zone. Everybody kind of agrees on that one.

GOLODRYGA: That one seems to be off the table.

I want to talk about these planes, because the Pentagon, as Gloria mentioned, said that would just be untenable, so that references up the delivery of the planes from Ramstein Air Force Base.

But the other argument you're hearing from officials is they just wouldn't be as effective as other weaponry we can provide.

So which answer is the correct answer as to why we don't see planes in Ukraine right now?

LEIGHTON: I think, in addition to what Gloria mentioned, with the logistics of getting it from A to B and into Ukraine, the other thing is this. The Ukrainians have not been using their aircraft that extensively. They fly about five to 10 sorties, per day compared to 200 by the Russians.

That shows that there is a disparity in the number of aircraft going up and carrying out missions between the two sides. So the big worry is that they are not going to be able to use the MiG-29s, once you give them to the Ukrainians, they won't be able to use them effectively against the Russians.


LEIGHTON: Plus, they'll be a target once they're at the bases, in the hangars or on the apron. They're not going to be anything but sitting ducks unless they're protected. And they have to be well protected so they can be used multiple times.

GOLODRYGA: It's just interesting that, if they actually won't be that effective, why, then, do we continue to hear that be the first ask?

Gloria Borger, Cedric Leighton, thank you, as always.

Coming up, President Zelenskyy getting a standing ovation from Congress.

But how much help are they willing to provide?

Up next.





GOLODRYGA: President Biden is expected to speak at any moment, responding to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's request to Congress.

But first more breaking news from Japan, where several cities are under a tsunami advisory right now following a powerful earthquake. Let's get straight to CNN's Blake Essig in Tokyo.

Blake, what are we learning?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, an earthquake, a 7.3- magnitude earthquake, about 60 kilometers below the ocean and depth off the shore of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, struck about 30 or 40 minutes ago.

We're here in Tokyo, 125 miles away. And I was laying with my kids at the time. There was a small earthquake and then, just a few minutes later, there was a much stronger earthquake that shook the whole house.

My wife was able to take a video of the earthquake as it happened. I would say it lasted at least 45 seconds to a minute or longer. You can see the TV shaking, appliances shaking all over the house, the whole house, just everything shaking.

As I was laying in bed with my kids, I took pillows and put it over the top of them to make sure nothing was going to fall on them. But at this moment in time, there are more than 2 million people here in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures without power. That's according to Tokyo electric power company.

There is a tsunami warning in effect at this moment, with the prime minister telling people to take precautions and stay away from the ocean or river mouths -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Jarring to watch that video, with everything inside the apartment shaking there. Blake, we better let you get back to your kids now. Thank you so much.

Coming up, Ukraine's president is asking for even more sanctions to cripple Russia's financial power.

But what more can Western countries do?

A Russian economist joins me, up next.

And we are awaiting remarks from President Biden. He is expected to announce how much more aid the U.S. is prepared to give Ukraine. We'll have it for you live here on CNN.